10 Hangover Remedies: What Works?
Don't get your hopes up
Alternating your drinks with water or another nonalcoholic beverage can help you slow down and stay hydrated. If you still wind up with a hangover, you may be inclined to try one of the many supposedly tried-and-true remedies.
However, traditional hangover remedies are often ineffective, and some of them may actually make you feel worse.
Hair of the dog
The alcohol may temporarily help your symptoms but could hurt in the long run. Hangovers make you feel horrible because alcohol is toxic, Dr. Cutler explains, and you need to give your body a chance to recover. That morning drink could lead to an even worse hangover the following day.
Eat light and stay hydrated, agrees John Brick, PhD, an alcohol research scientist and author of The Doctor’s Hangover Handbook. "No specific foods are recommended, although honey sandwiches are helpful to some people," Brick says.
All Alka-Seltzer varieties contain sodium bicarbonate (also known as baking soda), which will help settle a queasy belly by neutralizing stomach acid. Still, other ingredients, notably aspirin and citric acid, may irritate your stomach after a night of heavy drinking.
A 2005 review article in the journal BMJ identified eight peer-reviewed, placebo-controlled studies of hangover remedies, and concluded that "no compelling evidence exists" to support their use.
Dr. Cutler suggests taking a multivitamin instead to restore the nutrients your body may have lost during a binge.
If you’re a regular coffee drinker, skipping java when you’re hung over may—or may not—be a good idea, Brick says. You may wind up layering a pounding caffeine-withdrawal headache on top of your hangover woes when you miss your regular morning fix.
That said, caffeine narrows your blood vessels and boosts blood pressure. "Both of these may make the hangover worse," Brick says. "If you drink coffee regularly, you might try a very small amount in the morning. Wait 30 to 60 minutes and see how you feel."
Water and sports drinks
Nevertheless, replacing the fluid you've lost will likely help you feel a little less miserable. "Juice, water, Gatorade, all those thingsthey're going to make you feel better," says Dr. Cutler.
Take pain relievers
For women who have PMS-related pain such as cramping, breast tenderness, backaches, or headaches, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers (NSAIDs) can provide some relief.
These include ibuprofen (Advil and similar drugs) and naproxen (Aleve).
Or you can try over-the-counter remedies specifically aimed at PMS like Pamprin and Midol. These often combine some sort of pain reliever with caffeine.
"Remember: If you've been drinking heavily, you could be a little dehydrated, you could be metabolically behind on your nutrition, and exercise is going to require hydration and nutrition," Dr. Cutler says. "Exercise is always the right thing to do, but I don't think [on] the morning you wake up with a hangover, exercise is what you need." What you really need is rest, he adds.
If you're already somewhat dehydrated, excessive sweating can be harmful, and even deadly. Researchers from the Finnish State Alcohol Company's Research Laboratories, in Helsinki, warn that sauna bathing while hung over carries "real health risks," including dangerous drops in blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms.
If you have the luxury of "sleeping it off" the next day, do so. Your foggy brain and achy body will thank you. "The body’s got an amazing capacity to heal on its own," says Dr. Cutler.
In the end, the only surefire treatment for a hangover is time.